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Syon House from Richmond Gardens - I
Old Westbury Gardens, New York
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Syon House from Richmond Gardens - I
Early 1760s (undated)
Oil on canvas
93.9 x 139.7 cm
37 x 55 in.
P88A
Syon House appears on the right, seen from old Richmond Gardens, Kew across the River Thames. In the distance is the church of All Saints, Isleworth. The whole scene is bathed in a serene Claudean afternoon light. Under the trees in the right hand corner, an artist is drawing on white paper while an elegant man stands nearby. To their right is a gardener, sitting on his wheelbarrow, his blue coat hanging over a roller. Beyond to the left, groups of figures promenade or sit on the ground. In the background William Kent's follies built for the late Queen Caroline are visible - the Hermitage (begun 1730) and beyond the bend, the domed circular Tuscan Temple. Birds fly distantly overhead.
London, Grafton Galleries, Bond Street, Selection from the Collection of the late James Staats Forbes, May 1905
Novar Collection, 1878; Mieville Collection; Christie's 29 April 1899 (21); James Staats Forbes (1823-1904); 1906 bt John S. Phipps; by descent
Syon House, situated on the banks of the Thames near Brentford, had been in the possession of the Percy family since 1604. The Earl of Northumberland (created duke in October 1766) embarked on a scheme of fitting up the apartments in the grandest classical manner in 1762. This refurbishment, not fully realised, took seven years, during which time the park surrounding the house was refashioned by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Robert Adam's designs for the remodelling of the interior were published as vol. 1 of his Works in Architecture in 1773. However, there is no evidence of any ducal patronage of Wilson and this scene was probably intended as generic rather than as the portrait of a private estate.
D347 View of a Country House and Lake, The Courtauld Gallery, London
E72/13 Thomas Hastings after Wilson, Sion Park and House on Thames from Richmond Gardens, The British Museum (1854,0708.70) and other impressions
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[1] George Lambert View of Copped Hall in Essex, from the Park, 1746, Tate, London
[2] Antonio Canaletto, Syon House, 1749, Northumberland Collection
[3] John Boydell. A View of Sion House looking towards Kew, 1753, coloured engraving, Orleans House Gallery and other impressions
[4] Thomas Hastings, One of the Great Ponds between Hampstead and Highgate, London, looking towards the Surrey Hills, 1831, Bank of England, London (1141)
Wilson produced a number of views of country houses following his return to England from Italy in 1757. He inherited the practice of showing a house and its setting as part of a larger landscape from George Lambert , who had pioneered it in the 1740s with such works as View of Copped Hall in Essex, from the Park, Tate, London. Here however Wilson has expressed the classical connotations of the area in pictorial terms by using a compositional formula plus a warm colouring, which overtly recall the works of Claude Lorrain. One of the versions of this composition was later praised by William Hazlitt: 'We consider this landscape ... as one of the most striking proofs of Wilson's genius, as it conveys not only the image, but the feeling, of nature and excites a new interest unborrowed from the eye, like the fine glow of a summer's day.' (see Bibliography).
W. Hazlitt, Criticisms on Art, 1856, p. 186; A. Aymonino, 'The Cult of Antiquity', Country Life, vol. 209, no. 4, 21 January 2015, pp. 38-47
In the early 1760s Wilson painted numerous English scenes, especially of the Thames Valley. Because of its long-standing connection with royalty and more recent association with literary figures, including James Thomson, Alexander Pope and other leading poets, the area round Syon, Richmond and Twickenham had acquired a reputation as England's 'classic ground', redolent of history and high culture. Private estates near London, like Syon, were frequently compared with the villa-retreats of the ancient Romans.
23/04/2021